Museum of the History of Science

MHS Basement Gallery
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The Museum of the History of Sciencehouses an unrivalled collection of early scientific instruments in the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building, the Old Ashmolean on Broad Street, Oxford. The Museum is a research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, offering free access to its permanent displays and a programme of special exhibitions, family-friendly events, talks and tours, along with taught sessions for schools. For those unable to come to Oxford online versions of exhibitions are available, alongside standalone online resources on the website: www.mhs.ox.ac.uk.

The entire collection of the Museum of the History of Science is a Designated Collection of national importance.

Venue Type:

Museum

Opening hours

Tuesday to Sunday: 12:00 - 17:00
Closed on Monday.

Admission charges

Free

Additional info

Our library is open to the public by appointment.

The entire collection of this museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

This museum occupies the original home of Elias Ashmole's museum, the oldest purpose-built museum in Britain. Its Designated collections are dominated by an exceptional collection of early mathematical and scientific instruments from antiquity to the twentieth century, including the largest collection of astrolabes in the world. A highlight of this group of objects is the earliest known Persian astrolabe, dating from the 10th century.

The early sundial collection comprises 750 examples, the earliest being a portable Roman dial from around 250AD. The microscope collections, an important collection of telescopes, and photographic equipment including items that belonged to Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and TE Lawrence, are further important facets of this remarkable museum.

Particular strengths include early mathematical instruments, optical instruments, and apparatus associated with chemistry, natural philosophy and medicine. There is also a unique reference library for the study of the history of scientific instruments that includes manuscripts, incunabula, prints, printed ephemera and early photographic material.

Collection details

World Cultures, Science and Technology, Natural Sciences, Medicine, Maritime, Decorative and Applied Art, Archives

Key artists and exhibits

  • Einstein blackboard
  • H. G. J. Moseley
  • penicillin
  • Howard Florey
  • Royal Astronomical Society
  • Royal Microscopical Society
  • Earl of Orrery
  • spherical astrolabe
  • Erasmus Habermel
  • Lewis Evans
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Graphic detail for Back from the Dead

Back from the Dead: Demystifying Antibiotics

  • 4 November 2016 — 21 May 2017 *on now

75 years ago the first human trials of penicillin took place. To commemorate this milestone in medical history, Back from the Dead at the Museum of the History of Science traces the miraculous and precarious nature of antibiotics from the 1940s to the present day.

Suitable for

  • Any age
Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
A phenakistoscope, used in the Victorian period to produce moving images.

Magical Movies

  • 25 February 2017 2-4pm

What did the Victorians know about the moving image? Find out at the Museum of the History of Science and make your own magical movie toy.
Drop-in, ages 7+.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • Especially for children
  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 16-17
  • 14-15

Admission

Free

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/

A paper fire-dragon clock made at a family-friendly event.

Chinese Dragon Fire-Clocks

  • 28 January 2017 2-4pm

Make a working Chinese dragon fire-clock at the Museum of the History of Science to celebrate Chinese New Year. Try it out at home!
Drop-in, ages 7+.
Materials donation £3.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17

Admission

Free

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/

A monoprint made during a family-friendly workshop of the image seen through a microscope

Making Micrographia

  • 11 March 2017 1-4pm

Draw bugs and bacteria from images through microscopes, and make magical monoprints at the Museum of the History of Science.
Drop-in, all ages.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • Especially for children
  • Any age

Admission

Free

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk

Plastic brains being held by hands.

Brain Aware

  • 19 March 2017 12-4pm

An afternoon of interactive activities with University of Oxford researchers exploring how our brains work at the Museum of the History of Science.
For Brain Awareness Week.
Drop-in, all ages.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • Any age

Admission

Yes

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/

An images of one of the Museum's new board games.

Board Games and Medieval Medicine

  • 29 January 2017 2-4pm
  • 26 February 2017 2-4pm
  • 26 March 2017 2-4pm

The Museum of the History of Science is helping to develop new board games about medieval Islamic medicine. Help test our board games and give us your feedback.
Drop-in, ages 7+.
This event is running regularly on the last Sunday of every month.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/events/

Back from the Dead Special Exhibition Graphic Identity.

Back from the Dead: Curator-led Tour

  • 24 January 2017 From 1pm
  • 15 February 2017 From 2pm
  • 22 March 2017 From 3pm

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of first human trials of penicillin, Back from the Dead at the Museum of the History of Science traces the miraculous and precarious nature of antibiotics from the 1940s to the present day. Join our curators in the Special Exhibitions Gallery to discover how penicillin has shaped Oxford and the World.
Curator-led tours of Back from the Dead are running regularly while the exhibition is open.

No need to book.

Curator-led tours of Back from the Dead are running every two weeks.
Part of the programme of events for the Back from the Dead Special Exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science.

Suitable for

  • 16-17
  • 18+

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/backfromthedead/events/

Votives by artist Anna Dumitriu

Make a Magical Votive

  • 16 February 2017 2-4pm

Make a magical votive offering inspired by your experiences of antibiotics and the exhibition Back from the Dead at the Museum of the History of Science. Add your piece to an exciting art installation with artist Anna Dumitriu.

Drop-in. All ages.

Part of the programme of events for the Back from the Dead Special Exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/events/

Unlocking the Medieval Medicine Cabinet

  • 26 January 2017 7-8pm

Dr Freya Harrison (University of Warwick) explores whether antibiotics could be hidden in the pages of medieval manuscripts.
Part of the programme of events for the Back from the Dead Special Exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science.

Suitable for

  • 18+

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/museum-of-the-history-of-science-8237258993

Saving Lives with Penicillin in Britain and Abroad

  • 9 February 2017 7-8pm

Hear Dr Robert Bud (Science Museum, London) speak on the anniversary of the first human trials of penicillin. Dr Bud will describe the momentous medical event by looking at laboratory notebooks, analysis of British wartime experience and the challenges of making a wonderdrug in occupied countries from China to Czechoslovakia.
Part of the programme of events for the Back from the Dead Special Exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science.
Please reserve a ticket through Eventbrite.
Doors open at 6.30pm.

Suitable for

  • 18+

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/museum-of-the-history-of-science-8237258993

Two children looking at an astrolabe.

House of Wisdom

  • 11 February 2017 2-4pm

Find out how scientists in early Islamic civilisations mapped the stars, and discover medieval medicine through exciting new board games and activities at the Museum of the History of Science.
Drop-in, ages 7+.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 16-17
  • 14-15

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/events/

Stars and Specula

  • 3 March 2017 6-7:30pm

An evening of star gazing with an 1840 speculum-metal reflecting telescope, a modern telescope, and replica Galilean telescopes.
With Hanwell Community Observatory.
Location to be confirmed, please see the Museum of the History of Science website at www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/events for further details.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/events/

Crystals, Careers and Penicillin

  • 9 March 2017 7-8pm

Biographer Georgina Ferry is joined by a panel of young women currently working in biochemistry to discuss their careers, and the achievements of Chemistry Nobel Prize winner Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin.
Part of the programme of events for the Back from the Dead Special Exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science.
For Oxford International Women’s Festival.
Please reserve a ticket through Eventbrite.
Doors open at 6.30pm.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • 16-17

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/museum-of-the-history-of-science-8237258993

Sir Hugh Cairns: A Pioneering Neurosurgeon

  • 16 March 2017 7-8pm

Join Professor Gabriele De Luca (University of Oxford) at the Museum of the History of Science as he discusses the work of Sir Hugh Cairns, whose research led to the introduction of motorcycle crash helmets and transformed battlefield neurosurgery during World War II.
For Brain Awareness Week.
Please reserve a ticket through Eventbrite.
Doors open at 6.30pm.

Suitable for

  • 18+

Website

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/museum-of-the-history-of-science-8237258993

Yellow Magic

  • 18 March 2017 12-4pm

Join us for an exciting day of hands-on activities, talks and performances about the story of penicillin and the miracle of antibiotics at the Museum of the History of Science. Meet artists and scientists at the cutting edge of medical research.
For British Science Week.
Drop-in, all ages.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/events/

Museum of the History of Science
Broad Street
Oxford
Oxfordshire
OX1 3AZ
England

Website

www.mhs.ox.ac.uk

E-mail

museum@mhs.ox.ac.uk

Telephone

01865 277280

Fax

01865 277288

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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